Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gen Eds H4: From Waterloo to World War II

This is the fourth post in the World History part of my "General Education in a Nutshell" series. This series involves ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. The first topic in the overall series was philosophy. So far in the world history section:
The World Wars
1. The first world war (1914-18) established the United States as a world power. The second (1939-45) established the US as the dominant world power, along with the Soviet Union. It is sometimes difficult for Americans to imagine a time when the US did not take center stage on the world arena, but we have only been a major player in the world for about a century. We did not actually join into World War I until its final year, in 1917, but our participation tipped the scales in favor of the Allies. Similarly, we did not join in World War II until 1941, after the Japanese mounted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

These wars marked a new phase in the history of war, one where alliances between a network of nations prompted conflict on a global scale. The first world war started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Since he was heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, his death led Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, which led the other Central Powers (Germany, the Ottoman Empire in what is Turkey today, and Bulgaria) to declare war on Serbia. In turn, this situation led Serbia's allies, the Entente Alliance of 1907 (France, Britain, Russia), to declare war on the Central Powers.

President Woodrow Wilson called World War I "the war to end all wars." The fact that people could even think it was possible to end war shows how sobering a wake-up call this war was. Wilson urged the US to enter the war in 1917 to "make the world safe for democracy." [1] The period in the lead up to the war was arguably a time of great optimism among elite whites, a time when the privileged thought humanity had reached a high point. They looked back on history and saw themselves as the pinnacle of steady progress, a thread of Western "civilization" leading up to them at the height.

World War I showed that humankind was just as savage and brutal as it had ever been, and World War II punctuated it. More than 38 million people died in World War I. Aerial warfare, trench warfare, chemical weapons, the machine gun--they were all introduced to the world in the first world war. And it all started absurdly and coincidentally in an obscure city by a bumbling guy with a gun just sitting in a cafe and a bumbling heir apparent who didn't have the sense to get off the streets after someone threw a grenade at him.

Germany soon became the leading force in the war, and it was Germany that paid the greatest price. At the Treaty of Versailles (pronounced ver-SIGH) in 1918, Germany was required to pay for most of the cost of the war ("War Guilt"). At the time, the famous British economist Maynard Keynes warned that the reparations were too harsh ("Carthaginian"). And indeed the severe economic state that resulted in Germany, compounded by the Great Depression, facilitated Hitler's rise to power and thus the second world war.

2. The second world war left a lasting impression on the psyche of the world that remains today some seventy years later. Adolf Hitler became an archetype of human evil, a Satan among humanity. The Holocaust he conducted, leading to the murder of six million Jews, became an archetype of the problem of evil. Why would a good God allow such things to happen?

Meanwhile, the victory fed the American ego. In the Normandy invasion, we saw ourselves as the rescuers of the world. [2] We convinced ourselves that we were the world's savior. The Truman Doctrine in 1947 pictured America as the one to come rescue those parts of the world in danger from the Soviet Union.

World War II also ushered in the atomic age. The Manhattan Project was a secret race to develop an atomic bomb first before the Germans. Ironically, Hitler's racism against Jews in the 1930s had caused an immense brain drain from Germany sending the likes of Einstein, Max Born, and Hans Bethe to Britain and the US. Some of the brightest scientific minds of the world were directly sent to the enemy because of Hitler's stupidity. So are all who think one race is better than another.

America dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is often said that this action probably shortened the war by six months, thus saving far more lives than were killed. Nevertheless, the dropping of the bomb, along with the "carpet bombing" the US conducted on German cities like Dresden, is usually posed as an ethical question. Did the "end" of saving more lives justify the "means" of dropping the bomb on so many non-combatants?

Upon the first successful testing of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the Manhattan Project, is reported to have quoted an Indian scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

3. The end of the second world war seems more or less to have signaled an end to the long era of colonialization, which went back to Christopher Columbus in 1492. Within a short period of time France would abandon its colonies in Asia. Britain and France soon left the Middle East, which they had overseen since the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in World War I.

Prior to World War I, the Ottoman Turks had controlled the areas we know as Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. Similarly, the Turks oversaw the slightly more independent kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. During the first world war, the Allies stirred up an Arab Revolt with dreams of an Arab nation that would span from Syria to present day Yemen. This Arab revolt helped divert enough Ottoman attention to enable the British to prevail over the Turks.

But after the first world war, the British and French were given mandates by the newly formed League of Nations (1920) to administer the area until such time as its peoples were able to rule themselves. Somewhat arbitrarily, the area was divided into Mesopotamia (Iraq), Transjordan, and Palestine--all controlled by the British. Meanwhile, Syria came under French control. These divisions were arbitrary because the peoples of these areas did not think nationally, but ethnically. Iraq, for example, brought together three quite different people groups (Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd). It was a set-up prone to future conflict.

In the time between the world wars, Saudi Arabia and Iraq became independent states (1932). A Turkish revolt in 1923 wrested this formerly Ottoman center from British oversight and established it as an independent nation. Syria would become free of its French mandate at the end of World War II (1946), and Jordan (1946) would similarly become independent of Britain. Egypt finally became free of British presence in 1953.

The result has more or less been a mess. When kings or dictators have controlled these territories with an iron fist, they have remained relatively stable for a time (but with great pain for various internal groups). But these artificially created states have also seen major coups almost to a country. The second Iraq War only seems to have heightened the destabilization of the region. We can only hope that the democracies the West naively tried to install will eventually take hold and mature.

We already discussed the founding of Israel in 1948 out of the territory of Palestine that the British had overseen between the wars. This has proved to be the most destabilizing event of all in the region this last century, even more than the second Iraq War. Many Christians of course consider it the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Others consider it a self-fulfilling prophecy based on scriptures taken out of context. Maybe it is both.

The Great Depression
4. On October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday, the US Stock Market crashed after a decade of seeming prosperity. Or at least to the privileged of society, the "Roaring Twenties" had been wonderful. Ironically, 1920-33 were also the years of Prohibition, during which it was illegal to sell alcohol. But a downturn in the summer of 1929 was not addressed, leading to a snowball of panic and crisis.

There are competing theories for why the Depression turned out to be so bad, most of which suggest that the failure of the Federal Reserve to respond turned what might have been a mild recession into the worst economic crisis of modern history. The Keynesian approach suggests that the Fed should have invested money in the market, somewhat like the bailouts of the 2008 recession did. If we take recent history as an example, it seems to have worked. And you could argue that when President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR, 1933-1945) started doing this in 1933, it turned things around.

The monetarist approach blames the Fed for not increasing the supply of currency in the market as the crisis began. Banks did not have adequate currency to provide people with money during runs on banks. Over 900 banks had to close. This created a spiraling effect. Businesses went bankrupt. Unemployment soared. People didn't have money. The purchasing of goods stopped, causing more businesses to fail.

Perhaps both approaches have truth to them.

The protectionist responses of President Herbert Hoover (1929-33) and Congress only seemed to worsen the crisis. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 put tariffs on imported goods to record highs, and other countries responded in kind. So trade plummeted. The rest of the world suffered at the same time, giving rise to dictatorships, fascism, and militant communism. Stalin solidified state control of Russian farms, perhaps killing as many as 20 million of his own people. Hitler used the situation to rise to power, and ended the German financial crisis by spending money on a military build-up.

5. The New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt helped right the nation economically. Just five days after taking office in 1933, The Emergency Banking Act provided adequate currency to banks in order to meet the demands of their customers. That same year, the Banking Act of 1933 created the Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation, which makes sure that the holdings of individuals in banks are guaranteed by the federal government.

Later in his first term in office, Roosevelt would create the WPA (Works Progress Administration) to put people to work (1935). It made the government the single largest employer in the country. Social Security was also created in 1935. Roosevelt would be elected four times as president, finally dying in office in 1945, just before the end of World War II. After his death, Congress would enact law that limits presidents to two terms in office.

From where I sit, these measures not only started to reverse the Depression, but they helped a lot of people in dire need. We may have our own problems from some of these programs that need addressed today, but the basics seem to have been overwhelmingly positive. Again, the relative speed with which we emerged from the Great Recession of 2008 suggests that the bail-outs and other actions of the government and Federal Reserve were the right ones. Our contemporary nay-sayers are on Hoover's side.

The acts of Roosevelt did cause a fundamental shift in the way the federal government functions in American life, as well as in the relative attitudes of the Democratic and Republican parties toward the government. During the Civil War, the Democratic party took the part of the pro-slavery, state's rights approach to government. But FDR's efforts to bring the US out of the Great Depression resulted in the single greatest expansion of the federal government in our history. Since then, Democrats have been the champion of the federal government, and Republicans the champions of state's rights.

Democrats would dominate the presidency for the next forty years. Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" would expand government programs even further. The two Republican presidents of this period, Eisenhower and Nixon, would leave these government programs largely intact. Only with Ronald Reagan were some of the regulations of the New Deal folded back.

The Age of Physics
6. In 1900, Lord William Kelvin (for whom the temperature scale is named) remarked at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science that there was really nothing significant left to discover in physics. He could not have been more wrong. On December 14 of that same year, Max Planck delivered a paper that is often viewed as the beginning of quantum physics. Energy, he suggested, only exists in packets.

Quantum physics developed rapidly over the next thirty years. Lasers, nuclear weapons, DVDs, super-powerful computers, cell phones--none of these would have been possible without developments in our understanding of the atomic world in quantum physics.

The second great development was Einstein's theory of relativity. In 1905, he set forth his special theory of relativity having to do with time and speed. In 1915 he set forth a general theory of relativity addressing the effects of gravity on space and time. The theory opened up the study of the universe in a way impossible before (e.g., black holes), and certainly accurate GPS wouldn't exist without it.

7. This is as good a place as any to mention some of the great scientific developments of the 1800s as well. In 1865, the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell published his foundational work on electromagnetism, building on the work of others like Michael Faraday before him. The late 1800s would see these theories put to good practical use, with Thomas Edison developing light bulbs, the phonograph, and many more things. Alexander Graham Bell developed a workable telephone in 1876.

The late 1800s would also see Charles Darwin setting forth his theory of evolution in 1859. It did not cause an immediate change in cultural thinking but it has had a significant long term effect. For those looking to get rid of God, evolution provided a way to try to get around the impression that the world is far too orderly to have arisen by sheer chance. However, Darwin's theory was not seen as hostile to Christianity by everyone. Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and B. B. Warfield, all inerrantists and conservative Calvinist scholars, did not see the new theory as problematic.

However, when evolution teamed up with critical theories of the Bible coming out of Germany, we had the makings of what would become the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. From 1910-15, a set of 90 essays were published by scholars called The Fundamentals, pushing back against these sorts of developments. The controversy over evolution came to a head in 1925 with the Scopes Trial in Tennessee. John Scopes was on trial for teaching the theory of evolution, which was against the law in Tennessee.

William Jennings Bryan, representing the state, squared off against Clarence Darrow, representing Scopes. Bryan was opposed to evolution not so much because of Genesis but because he saw it as leading to "social Darwinism," a sense that the "fittest" in society deserved to survive, while those who were poor and weak simply had not been selected by nature to advance. [2] Bryan won the trial, but it is often thought that he lost the war in the process.

Industrial Revolutions
8. The Second Industrial Revolution is typically dated to the late 1800s and early 1900s. In particular, this phase of development involved the incorporation of technology into the production of goods. Improvements in the production of steel opened the door for the Steel industry to boom. Steel made it possible for the railways to boom. The need for steel drove the mining industry. Oil was needed for the trains too. The Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869. Some of this growth was started in the wake of the Civil War, which required the production and distribution of everything from troops to weapons.

Soon we had the rise of millionaires like Andrew Carnegie, the Vanderbilts, J. P. Morgan, the Rockefellers. This was the Gilded Age. It was an age of unthinkable wealth for those who controlled industry. Without laws and systems in place, there was inevitably corruption. Railroad businessmen were sometimes called "robber barons." And with this amount of money came the power to have significant influence over government.

9. It was also an age of immense immigration. The early 1800s had seen an influx of northern Europeans, including a lot of Irish and German immigrants. The late 1800s saw more from southern and eastern Europe (e.g., Italian and Polish), as well as the beginnings of Chinese and Japanese immigration. These newcomers flocked to the big cities. They worked for low wages in the new factories.

They also caused alarm. Immigration in large numbers has always caused alarm. We shouldn't think that the temperance movement was just about alcohol. It was as much against the people who were thought to be drinkers--the Irish, for example. Anti-catholicism in the 1800s wasn't primarily a matter of theology but a matter of the people who were Catholic, namely, immigrants. Why do we have Polack jokes? Much of it stems from sentiment against immigration.

Protectionist and "nativist" laws were passed accordingly. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited new Chinese from coming into America altogether. In 1924, a law was passed that froze immigration at its 1890 levels. All this opposition to immigration took place as France gave the Statue of Liberty to America in 1876 to honor our hundredth birthday as a nation. "Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to breathe free."

So the current fears and anger about immigration are nothing new. Been there, done that. And will again.

10. There was virtually no regulation on the businesses of the late 1800s. Workers had little or no power to protest poor working conditions, although the late 1800s would see the rise of labor unions. The Supreme Court of that age almost always sided with business. The North took advantage of its win over the South and truly to the victor went the spoils for a few years. "Carpetbaggers" was a pejorative term southerners used for northerners who moved to the south after the Civil War to take advantage of its disempowered state, which ended when the northern troops left in 1877.

The late 1800s were replete with financial crises, some of them having to do with the insistence on tying the amount of money in circulation to the gold standard. Limiting money to the gold standard caused the same problem that would later accentuate the Great Depression--without money available, banks and other companies weren't able to pay their debts and went out of business. This was one factor in the Long Depression of 1873-79 (although some would extend it to 1896).

The United States permanently went off the gold standard in the Nixon administration and the value of currency is currently tied to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. This is arguably a far more appropriate and less volatile way of approaching currency.

Unions did form, collections of workers that banded together to fight for reasonable wages and work conditions (remembering that the standards of that age were already far lower than anything we could imagine today). These sometimes ended in violence, especially in urban areas where the conditions were the worst. There were initially no protections for workers, no limits on the number of hours expected, no provision for on the job injuries. There were plenty of people to replace you if you disagreed with your boss. And because the powerful held the controls, state militias and police came down hard on strikers. There was almost always loss of life.

1877 saw the first nationwide strike, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. In response to the depression, the railroads began to repeatedly cut wages. Without any bargaining power or unions yet, rail workers walked off the job for 45 days in sufficient number as to paralyze the train industry. The National Guard was formed in part in response.

Those who are comfortable are often unaware of the hardship of other groups, who suffer and seethe for a time in apparent silence. Those with nice lives think everything is going just fine. Then when those under hardship rebel or revolt, the privileged think them the fiends. "What is your problem?" they think, since they have been blissfully unaware the whole time. They call on the police to clamp down on the riots and mobs created by conditions that have benefited them--or at least not harmed them.

These dynamics have shown up most recently in the Black Lives Matter movement. Unaware of the ease with which the upper and middle classes conduct life, the violence of the cities is pinned on bad character. The privileged aren't aware that their circumstances are quite different, much more comfortable than those who finally explode. So we want the police to take care of it. Ultimately, the conditions that feed the violence must be addressed before there will be a real change. So it was in the late 1800s.

11. In 1848, Karl Marx predicted that capitalism inevitably resulted in revolution. 1848 was a year when uprisings took place in Germany, France, Italy, and Austria. Marx, loosely basing his ideas on G. W. F. Hegel, argued that capitalism always ended in a bloody revolution of workers, who then ushered in communism--a system where everyone worked according to their ability and then shared their resources in common with those who had need. After seeing that England did not have such revolutions, he later modified his views to think that some countries might make these changes by law rather than revolution.

History has shown Marx wrong both about the inevitability of revolution as well as on his dreamy vision for communism. Every state that has tried non-democratic socialism (none even made it to communism) has been an economic failure, bringing everyone down to a lowest common economic denominator. [3] That is, except those in charge--the leaders of non-democratic socialist states usually replace wealthy capitalists as the privileged and maintain their power by oppression.

The most significant communist revolution was of course that in Russia in 1917, taking Russia out of World War I. The Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, took over Russia and soon created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It was the first Marxist state, but it would not be the last.

12. The corruption and the injustice fed by unbridled capitalism in the late 1800s were the seeds of the Progressive Movement of that age. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was a start, the beginning of an attempt to ensure the kind of competition between business which is necessary for it to work. Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, could have not foreseen how capital would gravitate toward single entities in a way that shut down the very competition that he saw as helping everyone as if "by an unseen hand."

Public sentiment was affected as the phenomenon we know as media began to rise, a powerful tool to impact public sentiment. "Yellow journalism" and "muckraker" novels presented issues and people in a skewed light that nonetheless steered public opinion, much as the media does today. Hollywood was born in this era, at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, was one such muckraker, depicting the plight of the American worker. It helped provide Congress and the President with enough cover to pass laws that booming business opposed because paying workers more and treating workers humanely cost them money. We would not recognize the harsh conditions of that age.

President Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 championed what he called the "Square Deal." It included three Cs--conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection. Although he was blocked on many of these proposals during his two terms in office (1904-1912), many of them were passed under subsequent presidents. Today we would consider such protections common sense. They are in part why we do not have the violent riots of workers that the world saw in the late 1800s.

Roosevelt was a Republican president and a progressive. You might argue that the Republican party, with its earlier stance on slavery, had started as a progressive party. But in the 1912 election, Roosevelt had become too progressive for the Republican party of that time. So he ran as the candidate of a new party he called the "Bull Moose Party." It split the Republican vote, and the Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected, the first Democrat to be elected since Andrew Jackson (1829-37), the first Southerner since before the Civil War.

From that point on, the Republican party would be the "conservative" party of tradition, and the Democratic party would be the progressive party. The Republican party had already become the party of big business in the the post-Civil war era. It has remained the party most aligned with business ever since.

The Civil War
11. The Civil War in the United States wasn't merely a fight over slavery, although it certainly was. There was a movement to purge the Civil War of its associations with slavery in the late 1800s. That is simply wishful thinking and whitewash. There would have been no war if the country as a whole had not been on a trajectory to do away with slavery.

Nevertheless, even if slavery was the underlying issue, it was fought on the surface over the question of who has the authority to decide what the states in the South could and could not do. The trigger was slavery; the war was over authority. And of course the conflict bore the marks of the Industrial Revolution all over it.

When the North won the war, the United States won. That is to say, the states of the South were asserting that individual states had the primary authority, rather than the unified nation expressing its overall will through the federal government. This was the best result for the thriving of the nation as a whole and indeed for the South itself in the long term.

If the Confederacy had won, would the South have stayed a largely agricultural collection of independent states? Would its progress then more or less followed the same route as Mexico this last century, remembering that the difference in industrial development between the South and Mexico was not that great at the time. Would slavery have continued to the present? The North won the war because it was industrialized. The South in part was fighting to remain an agricultural economy, depending for its economy on human workers (slaves).

If the North had lost, would it have devolved into more of a confederacy model? If so, the US might not have become a world power. And if the US had not become a world power, might the Germans have won World War I? If so, we would not have had a Hitler or a World War II. The Turks might still control the Middle East. In any case, the world would certainly be a different place.

10. Northern troops occupied the South until the Compromise of 1877. The first ten years after the Civil War were a time when African-Americans had been able to hold public office. There were former slaves in the state legislatures. There were black mayors of cities.

But the 1876 presidential election ended up in a crisis in the Electoral College. Under accusations of voter fraud on the one hand and the throwing out of votes for political reasons on the other, the results of the votes in Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana were under dispute. Thus the Electoral College vote was also under dispute. Congress appointed an Electoral Commission which, however, also voted along party lines.

In a Constitutional crisis, a compromise was struck. If northern troops would be removed from the South, the election would be given to the side of the debate favored by Republicans. Rutherford Hayes thus became president and the troops were removed in 1877.

What followed was a squashing of African-Americans in the south with the north complicit. Indeed, the Civil War was reinterpreted to be almost entirely a war about state's rights, saving the south the embarrassment of a war fought over slavery. Lynchings began to use fear to drive African-Americans into silence and submission. Voting fraud and intimidation soon drove blacks out of public office. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other ruses were put in place to discourage them from voting, much as voter ID laws today are a not so thinly disguised attempt to keep certain demographics from being able to vote.

In 1890, Jim Crow laws were passed segregating blacks from whites in public spaces. The Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 affirmed that this was a "separate but equal" situation. We now recognize the extreme shame of these practices. It took federalism to stop it. It took a Supreme Court reversal to stop it.

11. African-American men nevertheless received the right to vote in the narrow gap before northern troops left the south. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1868 promised "equal protection under the law" to all the citizens living in a particular jurisdiction. Although it was firmly opposed by the south, it was demanded before southern states could regain representation in Congress. Then the fifteenth amendment in 1870 gave African-American men the right to vote.

Women would not get the right to vote until 1919 and the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Nationalism and New Imperialism
12. The 1800s saw a sharp rise in nationalism, and the second Industrial Revolution led countries to draw more heavily on colonies around the world for resources and labor.

Germany was the key player in the forces of new imperialism that rose with great force in the late 1800s. After the defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna left 39 German states as a loose "German Confederation," with Austria as the dominant power. However, Prussia--what is now northeast Germany and northwest Poland--was also quite powerful.

The Austro-Prussian War ("Seven Weeks War") in 1866 left Prussia as the stronger force. It formed a "North German Confederation" of some 22 German states. With this grouping, we have the first German nation-state. The key figure behind this calculated consolidation and expansion was Otto von Bismark, appointed by the king as "Minister President of Prussia."

Prussia would only increase in power. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Prussia took some of the easternmost parts of France (Alsace-Lorraine). Cleverly, Bismark drew the key south German states into the conflict (Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hessen-Darmstadt). In 1871, the second German empire (the second "reich") was born with Bismark as Chancellor. It would live until the end of World War I in 1918).

13. Germany was now the dominant power of Europe. The Berlin Conference of 1884-85, called by Portugal and organized by Bismark, divided up Africa according to the powers of Europe. This was the "Scramble for Africa." On the one hand, the conference prohibited slavery in Africa. On the other hand, a "principle of effective occupation" came into play. If a country "effectively occupied" a particular territory, other powers were to stay clear.

The result was that France claimed most of the northwest part of Africa, Britain much in the northeast and south. Belgium was in the middle (the "Congo"), while Portugal, Germany, and others had lesser spots.

In the 1800s, the British and the French were the main colonizers of Asia. Britain largely claimed India as its colony, while France tried to keep its self-respect by control in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. China found itself under pressure from countries like Russia, Britain, France, the United States, and Japan. In the late 1800s, Japan would begin to modernize (1868) and truly become a force to be reckoned with, defeating China in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and defeating Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).

14. Of course the United States had been in an expansionist mode throughout the 1800s. James Monroe set out his "Monroe Doctrine" in 1823, indicating that the US was claiming the land all the way to the Pacific Ocean as its "manifest destiny." Thomas Jefferson had already added land purchased from the French in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Texas entered as an independent country in 1845 after winning its independence from Mexico in 1836.

Tensions with Mexico soon led to the Mexican-American war from 1846-48, which resulted in the US acquiring southern territories from Texas to California (the "Mexican Cession"), supplemented by the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, which added the southernmost part of modern day Arizona and a piece of New Mexico. This expansion west was also accompanied by forced migrations of native Americans (at best) and indeed, extensive exterminations (at worst).

Next Week: From Cromwell to Napoleon

Major Take Aways:
  • Don't go to war over your honor.
  • Human nature is no more evolved than it has ever been. The worst atrocities of history are always only a generation away.
  • No race is better or more clever than another.
  • Don't demoralize the defeated--it will come back to haunt you.
  • Never invade Russia on foot in the winter.
  • Unbridled capitalism leads to thoroughgoing corruption, economic crisis, and violent revolution.
  • Tying the amount of currency to a standard like gold in this day and age usually turns potentially small economic downturns into major economic crises.
  • Allowing for adequate amounts of currency, spending to bail out key capital forces, and creating job programs gets you out of a depression.
  • Taking advantage of a weaker group may be to your advantage for a time but eventually it comes home to roost with a vengeance.
  • People almost always react in fear with protectionism when there is an influx of immigration. 
  • Republicans and Democrats have switched flavors over time on more than one issue. 
[1] He had originally urged an isolationist approach, which suited most Americans. But German submarines foolishly continued to sink ships with Americans on them, starting with the RMS Lusitania in 1915. Although it was a British ship, 128 Americans died on it. [2] Although the efforts of our brawn might have been pointless if the British had not already broken German code, allowing the Allies to anticipate German movements.

[2] Herbert Spencer and Thomas Huxley are names often associated with social Darwinism.

[3] Democratic socialism has been more successful in parts of Europe, although certainly not overwhelmingly prosperous.

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